Towards Solving the Conundrum of Fast-Spread Ocean Crust Formation: Insights from Textural Analysis of Gabbroic Rocks from Pito Deep and Hess Deep, East Pacific Rise

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Tyler C Brown1, Michael J Cheadle1, Barbara E John1, Laurence A Coogan2, Jeffrey S Gee3, Jeffrey Alan Karson4, Romain Meyer5, Georges Ceuleneer6 and Susan Swapp1, (1)University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States, (2)University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada, (3)Univ California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, (4)Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, United States, (5)Centre for Gebiology, Bergen, Norway, (6)University Paul Sabatier Toulouse III, Toulouse Cedex 09, France
Few examples of in situ fast-spread lower ocean crust exist for sampling. Here we present detailed textural analyses of two sample sets that formed at the East Pacific Rise, collected from tectonic windows at Pito (PD) and Hess (HD) deeps. PD samples (collected by ROV) span the upper ~900 m of lower crust. HD samples (collected by seafloor drilling during IODP Exp. 345) come from >1500 m below the sheeted dike gabbro transition (mbsd).

PD gabbroic rock textures are consistent with a gabbro glacier flow model generating the uppermost plutonic crust. Shallow samples (41-72 mbsd) likely formed at the distal edge of the magma lens, analogous to similar rocks from Oman. These gabbros are relatively evolved (cpx Mg#75-77, An53-61 and 1-4% Fe-Ti oxides), and have elongate plagioclase grains (aspect ratios up to 1:2:10) exhibiting a strong shape preferred orientation (SPO) with <40% of grains showing dislocation creep textures. Deeper samples (177-876 mbsd) likely began crystallizing in the magma lens then subsided and ‘flowed’ through the underlying mush zone. These gabbros are more primitive below 386 mbsd (Fo83-88, cpx Mg# 85-89 and An70-82), and plagioclase grains have more equilibrated morphologies (aspect ratios < 1:2:6) that define ~vertical SPOs which increase in strength with depth. Plagioclase exhibits magmatic crystal-lattice preferred orientations (CPOs) which are also vertical. Significantly, the proportion of grains showing dislocation creep textures increases with depth, and plagioclase grain size distributions show a smaller range of sizes at depth; observations that perhaps reflect the effect of increasing strain with depth.

IODP Hole U1415I at HD recovered gabbros and troctolitic gabbros from the mid lower crust that show distinctive cm-dm scale modal layering. Strong plagioclase SPOs parallel layering and magmatic CPOs vary dramatically in strength over just 4.5 m of core. Plagioclase grains are relatively equant (aspect ratios < 1:2:4), wrap around large cpx oikocrysts, and exhibit fewer dislocation creep textures than the PD gabbros. These observations perhaps suggest primary crystal accumulation rather than bulk strain/flow. The similar mineralogy and textures of these samples to those from the Rum layered intrusion suggest HD U1415I gabbros may have formed by mid-crust sill injection.